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Rocky Road for Adults!



Everyone loves rocky road. Super sweet, with chocolate, peanuts, marshmallow and maybe cherries or jelly pieces, it’s a nice mix of taste and textures.

It’s pretty easy to make, and I often fling a few ingredients together to make rocky road for friends or family.

This is the version that I make that’s “Adults Only”! It’s got lots of stuff in it that adults will like – dark chocolate and ginger for instance. But it’s still got good old marshmallow. You can’t have rocky road without marshmallow.

So here’s the recipe – or rather, the procedure, since there’ s no cooking involved, and quantities are really a matter of personal preference.


200g good quality dark chocolate

a handful of nuts –  macadamias, hazelnuts and almonds are really good

several pieces of crystallized ginger

a handful of glace cherries and/or any other glace fruit (pineapple and apricot are nice)

several pink and white marshmallows

and anything else you think might go well in the rocky road

50g white chocolate for decorating


Line a rectangular or square baking tin with baking paper. Roughly chop the larger pieces of  glace fruit. It really doesn’t matter that much what size the pieces are, as the rocky road eventually gets broken up.  Scatter the pieces any old how over the baking paper.

Carefully melt the chocolate in a bowl placed over a saucepan of boiling water on the stove, making sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Once the chocolate has melted, pour it into the baking tin, so that it covers the “rubble” of ingredients that will make the rocky road.

Leave to set for a few hours, or stick in the fridge for a faster set or if it’s a hot day.

You can decorate the rocky road if you like. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over simmering water as you did for the dark chocolate. Drizzle over the set chocolate slab, using a skewer or the end of a knife. When the white chocolate is quite set, break up the large chocolate slab into rough pieces or cut with a knife into even or rough pieces. Great to serve with coffee or wrap up as gifts at Christmas.







Strawberry Cupcakes with Intense Strawberry Flavour



These beautiful cupcakes are truly strawberry marvels. They have an intense strawberry flavour in both the cakes themselves and in the luscious strawberry icing. I used my usual go-to recipe for the cupcake mixture, based on Nigella‘s cupcake recipe. Adding some strawberry puree which I cooked down to a beautiful paste as well as a handful of chopped fresh berries, gives you the strawberry cake batter. A traditional buttercream icing with more reduced strawberry puree, and some optional strawberry fondant creme make these cupcakes really delicious!



125g self-raising flour

125g caster sugar

125g butter

2 large free-range eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tblsp milk

2 tbls reduced strawberry puree*

Handful of chopped fresh strawberries (about 6 will probably be enough)

Strawberry Buttercream Icing

50g butter, softened

250g icing sugar, sifted

2 tbls reduced strawberry puree*

1 tbls strawberry fondant creme (optional)



Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a 12 hole muffin tin with cup cake cases.

Put all the ingredients except the milk, reduced strawberry puree and chopped strawberries in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add the milk while pulsing to make a soft, dropping consistency.

Carefully fold in the reduced strawberry puree and chopped strawberries.

Spoon mixture into the cases, filling the cases equally.

Place the tin in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cup cakes are cooked and golden on top.

Take the cup cakes in their cases out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Ice with the strawberry buttercream icing.

Strawberry Buttercream Icing

In a bowl, cream together the butter and icing sugar until combined, then add the reduced strawberry puree and the strawberry fondant creme (if using) and beat well. If the icing is too soft, or runny, then add more icing sugar to get the desired consistency.

*To make reduced strawberry puree

To make the total amount of reduced strawberry puree needed for both the cakes and icing, puree about 20 strawberries in a food processor or a blender. You will get about 1/2 cup, or 2/3 cup of puree. Put the puree in a saucepan  and heat the puree over low to medium heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally until reduced by about 2/3 to 4 tbls –  about 10 minutes or so.

These quantities and instructions are rather loose – you need enough strawberries to make a decent amount of puree, then cook them down for long enough to give enough reduced puree for both the cakes and icing. It’s important to cook the puree so that it’s thick, particularly for the icing, so that the icing isn’t too runny.

Also, chill the puree before adding it to the cakes or icing.






Eating out in Adelaide – From Freakshakes to Fine Dining


Recently I had the good fortune to spend a few days in Adelaide, South Australia. I was attending a conference over three days, a perfect amount of time to sample some of the delights of Adelaide food. The trip fulfilled its promise: a really good conference with some great papers presented, and the opportunity to indulge in some lovely food experiences.

So what is the significance of the title of this post? Well there was fine dining, and then there was THE FREAKSHAKE. As a lover of all things sweet and creamy, this writer, having discovered this truly weird drink/food, has been keen to try one. Freakshakes, sadly most probably an ephemeral food trend, are milkshakes with all sorts of edible goodies piled on top and lots of syrup and sauce flowing over the top of the glass jar.

Somehow they are quite hard to find in Sydney, so when researching dining in Adelaide, I googled freakshakes and discovered St Louis House of Fine Ice Cream and Dessert As you can see from the photo I was not disappointed!


I had the Peanut Butter Brownie Shake Peanut Butter Nutella milkshake, topped with a warm chocolate brownie and chocolate coated wafer balls. Drizzled with pure melted milk chocolate. My partner in culinary crime and academic adventure, the quirky Ms R, had the Salted Caramel Waffle Shake Salted Caramel milkshake, topped with warm Belgian Waffle, dulce de leche and sweet ’n salty popcorn.

But the highlights of the stay were discovering some really good restaurants, from chic to adventurous, all within a walk or an Uber drive from our city hotel. And there were a couple of great breakfast cafes, one – Stumps Bar and Kitchen, that looked like its name, ie a bar  – but which produced an amazingly beautiful plate of ricotta hotcakes with blueberries, lemon curd and cream with edible flowers… the photo at the top of the post says it all!  Here is the link:

Press* food and wine, where we had our first dinner, is aptly named as the restaurant is situated in the old printing works of the newspaper The Adelaide Advertiser. A huge industrial space which suits the down to earth yet inventive cooking style. The restaurant specializes in offal. That option was not for us – we stuck with some great vegetarian options. A salad of ricotta balls and radicchio was fresh and pungent and a truffled mushroom & taleggio pithivier with cauliflower purée was unusual and delicious. However the Bombe Alaska with a peanut brittle and banana ice cream frozen centre was amazing…and it came to the table alight! Here is the link to the restaurant:



Next, tucked in a laneway reminiscent of Melbourne’s well known city lanes, was Peel St. The dining space is casual, with an open kitchen and bar side dining. That’s where we sat, watching the kitchen action and the prep of the beautiful dishes. The food was great, some of the best dishes we ate in Adelaide. There were two standouts.  Banana blossom chicken, chilli jam and coconut salad with peanuts and crispy shallot was an Asian inspired dish of deliciousness, with contrasting textures and intricate flavours. My photo, unfortunately, is not included as the low lighting didn’t do the dish justice. Dessert, which I did photograph, was a peanut parfait with chocolate mousse, brulee toffee banana and meringue cigars. It tasted as good as it looks! This is the Peel St link:


On the last night we visited Africola, a very cool eaterie with the focus on African food. As their website says “compact, simple restaurant with a western soundtrack, for African-inspired vegetables, grilled and smoked meats, flatbreads, pickles and natural wine.” We sat at the bar here too, literally a metre or so from the cooking and prep stations. We watched them cooking our flatbreads on the flame grill, which came to us with some smoky dips. A half cauliflower – cooked on the grill – came seasoned and dressed. A nice way to eat a sometimes predictable vegetable. This is the link:


Another tasty breakfast was Cafe Troppo, where sustainability, community and environment are key themes. Ms R had a traditional breakfast of seasoned scrambled eggs and gourmet bacon on local, hand-made sourdough. I was keen to try the stone-milled whole grain flour waffles, pressed to order, with Paris Creek whipped cream, bacon and thyme honey. Delicious waffles, but I’m not convinced about sweetened whipped cream with bacon… Link here:


Another nice foodie experience to mention in passing – the fabulous Adelaide Central Market – where one particular patesserie counter caught my eye with their salted caramel doughnuts. Ms R and I had to share one, of course!


And on the third and last day of our conference, our hosts took us on a cultural tour to the Adelaide Hills, where we had lunch at Deviation Road Winery, which specializes in paellas cooked in enormous paella pans shown in the photo. Here is the link:


My short sojurn in Adelaide was rewarded with some memorable dining experiences. It’s clearly a city with an exciting and varied food scene, relaxed vibe, and very friendly and knowledgeable service. Go visit!










Greenhouse Muffins



This is Matt Stone‘s recipe for really delicious muffins! The recipe is from his great book “The Natural Cook Maximum Taste Zero Waste”, see here for link. He’s an interesting, sustainable chef, who has been involved in innovative kitchens such as the Greenhouse in Perth, Western Australia.

The recipe is full of grated apples and carrots, with walnuts and cinnamon, with an oaty crumble topping. What I liked too, was that Matt suggests making a big mixture, baking some straight away and keeping the rest of the mixture to bake in a day or two. Genius, if you want freshly baked muffins for breakfast, without having to make the mixture from scratch in the morning. He even suggests that it’s best to make the muffin mix the night before anyway, to let the flour and baking powder work overnight.

Matt’s recipe uses freshly milled flour and freshly rolled oats, as he is an advocate of using ingredients in the freshest possible state. I didn’t have access to these techniques, so I used regular plain flour and rolled oats. But I am seriously thinking about acquiring the equipment to mill and roll at home!

The first batch I made in a regular muffin tin but I made the second batch using a texas muffin tin. From one mixture I got 6 regular muffins and 4 texas sized ones. The recipe below refers to using a regular, 12 hole muffin tin. Obviously you can make different sizes, as I did, if you want.



100g nuts (I used walnuts)

4 eggs

280g raw sugar

200g carrots, unpeeled and grated

200g apples, unpeeled and grated

150ml vegetable oil

300g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp salt


50g cold butter

70g plain flour

50g rolled oats

50g sunflower seeds

1 tsp vegetable oil

3 tsp honey


Dry-toast the nuts in a heavy-based frying pan over medium–high heat for 3–5 minutes until fragrant and golden, then roughly chop.

Whisk the eggs together in a large mixing bowl and once things start to get foamy, slowly begin to pour in the sugar. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has doubled in size. Whisk in the carrot, apple, oil and toasted nuts. Use a spatula to gently fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

The mixture can be baked straight away but Matt suggests leaving it in the fridge overnight. This will give the flour a chance to hydrate and the baking powder to activate, resulting in a more consistent muffin texture. The mix will keep for 3–4 days in the fridge so it’s not a bad idea to make a double batch and bake every second day so you can have fresh muffins all week with little fuss.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. For the topping, place the cold butter and flour in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips. Add the oats, seeds and oil, mix well, then mix in the honey. You want a crumble-type mixture. If it’s too dry, add a splash of water to get it to a lovely, crumbly consistency.

Grease a 12-hole standard muffin tin and line the holes with squares of baking paper. Spoon in the muffin mixture and press it down to the level of the tin.

Cover the top of the muffins with the crumbly topping mixture. Place the tray in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. Check the muffins at 15 minutes and every 5 minutes from there. The good ol’ skewer test is the perfect way to see if they’re cooked through.

Once cooked, remove the muffins from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes. Remove them from the tin, peel off the baking paper and place on a wire rack.

Serve warm, pretty much after baking, with butter!






Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies


These are great! They combine two great methods of biscuit making to create a thick, buttery, chocolately sweet treat. The recipe is more shortbread than cookie, creaming butter and sugar, and adding flour.There’s no egg, as there would be in traditional chocolate chip cookie. Add a handful of chocolate chips and the shortbread dough steps over into cookie territory.

The recipe is based on a post from “The View from Great Island”, see here. My version is minus peanut butter, and with my own variations. If you’re over  thin and crispy cookies, or soft and chewy, making a nice dense shortbread make sense.

If you want to zhush up these cookies, try mixing in a tablespoon or two of caramel filling when you cream the butter.  Something like dulche de leche is great. And sprinkle some sea salt on to the cookie rounds before baking.



220g butter at room temperature

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

300g plain flour

75g icing sugar

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (dark or milk)


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Cream the butter using an electric mixer until the butter is soft and whipped, Add the vanilla extract. Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the butter and mix until the dough just comes together. Stir in the chocolate chips, making sure not to overmix the dough.

Turn the dough out onto greaseproof paper. Divide the dough into two, for easier handling.  You need to gently shape each dough portion to form them into a log shape. Each log will be about 15- 20cms in length and the diameter will be about what you would expect form a round cookie…ie 8-10 cms. But the size of the logs is really whatever size you want your cookies to be!

You may need to work it with your hands if it is too crumbly. Roll them up in the greaseproof paper, carefully making the log the shape, Twist both ends of the logs securely.

Refrigerate for  one to two hours until the logs are really firm.

Cut the logs into 1 cm slices with a very sharp knife, I find that a serrated knife works well. Some will be more even shaped than others, and the ends of the logs will be smaller.

Place the cookie slices on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. You may need 2 baking sheets depending on how many cookies you are baking. I usually get 20-22 good sized cookies from the dough quantity. Bake for about 12-14 minutes, until the cookies are light golden and look like shortbread.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.



Cruffins and Kouign Amann Pastries



I love croissants and Danish pastries, in fact, any kind of sweet treat that involves lots of lovely layers of flaky pastry!

Cruffins are that curious hybrid, the love child of a croissant and a muffin.  I love them because they have those flaky croissant layers yet are compact enough to hold and eat as they have that neat muffin shape!

Kouign amann (pronounced queen amarn) are Breton pastries that are similar to croissants. They have a layer of sugar in the dough, and are baked in a unique shape with four distinct corners.

While the dough for both these pastries is not identical, they are close enough for me to use one batch of croissant dough to create cruffins and kouign amman. And both pastries can be baked in a muffin tin.

I essentially made a croissant dough and used 1/4 dough for each type of pastry. I layered one dough portion with sugar, and used that for the kouign amann, while the other dough portion I merely had to shape into cruffins before baking. So you end up with 6 cruffins and 6 kouign amann. Just double the quantities for 12 of each.

So here is my simplified recipe for both delights. You can find lots of variations, some quite complicated for both, online, but I wanted recipes that were reasonably simple and not to technically challenging. The kouign amann recipe is adapted from Emma Christensen’s helpful post from her Kitchn blog.




1/4 batch croissant dough *(recipe follows below)

1/4 cup icing sugar for dusting


1/2 cup icing sugar

Juice of 1/4 lemon

1 tbls raspberry fondant creme (optional)

1 tsp freeze dried raspberry powder (optional)


Generously butter a 6 or 12 hole muffin tin.

Roll out your pre-prepared croissant dough to a long rectangle, about 1/2 cm thick. Cut it in half lengthways if it is too big to deal with. Cut strips of dough again lenghthways, about 10cm wide, using a pizza cutter or sharp knife. The strips can be wider, the wider the strip the higher the cruffin. The trick is to have dough, once rolled, big enough to rise high, but not so big that they flow over the muffin tin without support.

Carefully roll up each strip starting from a short end (10cm end), fairly tightly. Place each roll cut side up in a muffin hole. You should get around 6 cruffins.  At this stage you can leave to prove as is, or wait, as  I did, to fill the other muffin holes with kouign amann pastries.

Place a large plastic bag over the tin and leave to prove for about an hour, or until the cruffins have grown in size.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

Once proved, bake for about 30 minutes until the cruffins are puffed up and a rich golden brown croissanty colour. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cruffins to a wire rack or large plate. Drench with 1/4 cup icing sugar while still warm.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar, lemon juice raspberry fondant creme if using, to make a dribbly sort of icing/glaze. Using a pastry brush, paint the cruffins with the icing/glaze. For added artiness and a lovely intense raspberry taste, scatter a little freeze dried raspberry powder over the cruffins.


Kouign Amann


1/4 batch croissant dough *(recipe follows below)

1 cup caster sugar + additional for rolling

1/4 cup icing sugar for dusting


1/2 cup icing sugar

Juice of 1/4 lemon


Roll out your pre-prepared croissant dough to a long rectangle, about 1/2 cm thick. Sprinkle the rectangle with 1/2 cup sugar and press lightly with the rolling pin to help it stick. now fold the top (narrower end) third down and the bottom third up, like folding a letter.

Rotate the dough 90 degrees so that the open end is facing you, like a book. Roll the dough out to a rectangle about 1/2 cm thick. Sprinkle the rectangle with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and press lightly with the rolling pin to help it stick. Fold the top third down and the bottom third up. If any sugar falls out, press it back into the folds.

Put the dough into large plastic bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

 If you haven’t already done so, generously butter a 6 or 12 hole muffin tin. (If making cruffins at the same time, you will already have buttered your muffin tin.)

Sprinkle the rolling surface with caster sugar.  Transfer rested dough to the rolling surface. Sprinkle a little additional sugar over the top of the dough. Roll the dough out to a rectangle about 1/2 cm thick.

Cut the dough using a pizza cutter or sharp knife into 10cm squares. Fold the corners of each square toward the center. Pick up each pastry and tuck it firmly into the muffin holes. You may have to push it in gently. You should get about 6 pastries.

Place a large plastic bag over the muffin tin and leave to prove for about an hour, or until the kouign amann  are slightly puffed up.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through baking. The kouign amann are cooked when they are puffed up and a rich golden brown croissanty colour. Be careful that the tips don’t burn. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes; don’t  let the kouign amann cool completely in the muffin holes or the sugar will harden and make the pastries pretty tough to remove.

Remove the kouign amann to a wire rack or large plate. Drench with 1/4 cup icing sugar while still warm. To  ice the kouign amann, mix the icing sugar and lemon juice to make a dribbly sort of icing/glaze. Using a pastry brush, paint the kouign amann with the icing/glaze.


Croissant Dough recipe

This recipe is that of the inimitable James Morton, finalist on the Great British Bakeoff 2012. His book Brilliant Bread is full of great recipes that make bread making, and in this case, croissant making, a common sense affair.

So here is James’ recipe (for the dough only).


900g strong white flour

50g caster sugar

2 x 7 g sachets fast-action yeast

14g salt

20g unsalted butter, chilled

500g full-fat milk

200g sourdough starter (My Note – you could leave this out if you haven’t got a starter, but it does improve the flavour)

500g unsalted high quality butter, chilled


In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, yeast and salt until combined, rubbing the yeast and salt in at opposite sides of the bowl. Roughly rub in the 20g butter until crumb-like, then add the milk and starter if using and form into a dough.

Knead the dough vigorously for 10-15 minutes until it has become smooth and doesn’t break when stretched. Wrap in cling film (I use a large plastic zip lock bag)  and refrigerate for at least an hour  but preferably overnight.

Once the dough has rested, take the additional butter and place it between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper (I find cling film works well). Using a rolling pin, bash the butter until it flattens into a square, roughly 20cm x 20 cm and 10 cm thick. Return the butter to the fridge and remove the croissant dough.

Roll out the dough on floured surface until it is a rectangle about double the size of the flattened butter (20cm x 40cm). On one half of this, place the flattened butter.Fold the dough over the butter and pinch all around the edges to seal. Turn the dough round a quarter turn.

Gently roll the dough out into a new rectangle about three to four times as long as it is wide. Gently take both ends and fold them over towards each other, so that they meet in the middle (your rectangle should now be half as long as it was). Then, fold the new shape in half again, closing it like a book. Wrap in cling film or place in the plastic bag,  and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Carefully, repeat the instructions in the last paragraph twice more, so that the dough has been folded and rested three times altogether. Rest for 20 minutes one final time.

The dough can be used immediately or frozen for future use.

The quirkandthecoool (me!) can thoroughly recommend  freezing the dough. The basic recipe makes a HUGE quantity of dough. It make so much sense to divide it into two, or even four, bake with some now, and freeze the rest for using at a later date.










Blood Orange Upside Down Cake With Candied Orange


Revisiting September:  Here’s a cake I made in september 2014, a blood orange upside down cake. This cake does blood oranges two ways – candied on the top of the cake, (which started off as the bottom) and whole oranges, skin and all, blitzed through the batter. A lovely introduction to the coming months of spring, when it will be warm enough to have afternoon tea in the garden!


2 + 2  blood oranges

200g  + 200g sugar

125g very soft butter

2 free range eggs

½ tsp vanilla essence

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder


Candied Blood Oranges

Finely slice 2 of the oranges, discarding the ends and keeping as many slices intact as you can.

Dissolve 200g of the sugar in 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan, and bring to the boil. Carefully place the orange slices in the syrup and simmer them until they are soft and sticky. Remove from the syrup using tongs. If the syrup is not reduced enough, cook it for a few minutes extra to thicken – but don’t let it go to toffee.


Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.

Grease a 20cm springform cake tin. Line the base with baking paper, cut slightly larger than the circle base, making sure the paper comes a little way up the sides of the tin. This is  as a precaution, in case the syrup leaks out of the tin.

Chop 2 of the blood oranges in quarters and remove each end. Blitz in the food processor until reasonably finely chopped – there should still be some small chunks in the mixture.

Add the butter and 200g of the sugar and blitz in the food processor. The mixture will look very curdled! Add the eggs and vanilla and blitz again, the mixture will still look very curdled!

Gently fold in the flour and baking powder, making sure not to over mix or the cake with toughen. The cake mixture will now look “normal”.

Place the candied orange slices on the paper base in the springform tin, as artistically as possible, remembering, as this is an upside down cake, that the bottom becomes the top.

Place the batter over the top of the slices. Gently tap the mixture to even it out. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool the tin on a wire rack. When the cake is cool (not cold), carefully turn upside down on a serving plate. Release the springform clasp, and carefully remove the ring. Even more carefully, take off the base and peel away the baking paper.

You should have a beautiful upside down cake with fruit intact! Brush the cake with the blood orange syrup, or you could serve the syrup on the side as a sauce.

Serve with whipped cream or sour cream or creme fraiche. I prefer the latter two as the cake is very sweet and needs to be offset by a little sourness.


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